Positive changes are happening in the church. Not too long ago, clergy sexual misconduct (CSM)/clergy sexual abuse (CSA) toward an adult was almost unheard of. Resources to help the many silent victims who were sexually abused by their spiritual leader as an adult were hard to find on the internet, and discussion on the topic wasn’t happening outside of closed doors. Therefore, many victims of CSM were left confused, scared, and in despair when attempting to find help. Church leaders were often misinformed on the subject and ill-equipped to prevent and properly respond to incidents of sexual abuse against an adult in their congregation.
However, after the #MeToo and #ChuchToo movement in 2017, the church was confronted with the reality that sexual abuse against adults is not only present in the church but has been greatly mishandled in the past and today. As survivors of abuse began bravely speaking out, the faces of sexual abuse changed from only children to include grown adults. Learn more about CSM and how it happens.
Today, the church is slowly growing in its education of CSM and is more ready to identify perpetrators. Many high-profile cases have attracted media attention to the silent epidemic of clergy sexual abuse and ministry cover-ups. When reading about these high-profile cases, a common thread can be found: the church’s initial response was grossly incorrect. These cases represent what is found in churches of all sizes when abuse is discovered. Many times, ministries use their institutional power to silence and blame victims in order to protect the organization.
However, times are changing and more and more churches are working diligently to not repeat the mistakes of the past by preparing their leadership for the future through the power of education.
It is important to note that as adult clergy sexual abuse research continues to grow and as more survivors share their stories, we gain knowledge about how this lesser known form of abuse impacts the lives of victims and how ministries can better prevent and respond to it. This is one of the many reasons why the voices of survivors are so valuable and should not be silenced.
A Growing Number of Recommended Resources
With the church waking up to the reality of adult clergy sexual misconduct, a growing number of resources are being made readily available to ministries to provide the necessary education leaders need to help prevent and properly respond to it. Below you will find a list of recommended resources to help begin your ministry’s journey toward providing a safer ministry environment.
Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force (Baptist Women in Ministry & Cooperative Baptist Fellowship)
A joint effort between Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force provides easy-to-use training tools for clergy, including an educational video, Safe Churches and Ministers, which includes a discussion guide and leader’s guide. Also provided is a collection of guidelines for congregations called Clergy Sexual Abuse Prevention Recommendations for Churches and a list of books, articles, and web links. The small group discussion is designed for churches, seminaries, and partnering organizations. Learn more and access their training tools.
Baylor University | Diana R. Garland School of Social Work
Clergy Sexual Abuse Resources
The Baylor University Diana R. Garland School of Social Work has contributed a wealth of research and resources on understanding and preventing clergy sexual abuse, which ministries will find helpful. Resources include a best practice guide, a sample code of ethics, strategies for preventing clergy sexual abuse, academic publications, bibliography, and more.
FaithTrust Institute is a multifaith, multicultural training and education organization with global reach that provides faith communities and advocates with the tools and knowledge they need to address the faith and cultural issues related to abuse. FaithTrust Institute provides multifaith and religion-specific intervention and prevention training, consulting, and educational materials for national, state, and community faith-based and secular organizations. This means that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Protestants, and members of other religions can all receive education on clergy sexual misconduct in one site.
Its trainings include information on maintaining healthy boundaries for clergy and spiritual leaders and can be done in person or online. It also offers consultations and the ability to build a training to meet your needs. Learn more about its Healthy Boundaries training. It also offers educational books, PDFs, and videos.
FaithTrust Institute also offers an excellent guide, Responding to Spiritual Leader Misconduct. This free resource includes basic principles of analysis of misconduct in a spiritual or religious community: who, what, when, and where. It provides information for trauma-informed responses to complaints and the how to navigate the process of responding to abuse. The handbook is non-denominational and multifaith and not intended to represent the teachings of any particular spiritual tradition in matters of doctrine or morals.
GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment)
GRACE is a well-recognized ministry that provides a wealth of services to churches and ministries to help prevent and deal with abuse in the church. Besides providing in-person and online training for ministry leaders, GRACE also provides organizational assessments, consultations, policy review and development, and even independent investigations when abuse occurs.
Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused (ChurchCares.com)
Although Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused does not include in-depth teaching specifically on clergy sexual misconduct, it is still an extremely valuable tool for ministries as it includes an online video curriculum that brings together top experts from various fields to help leaders understand and implement the better practices (better at the time of recording) for handling a variety of abuse scenarios at church, school, or ministry. The most comprehensive training is experienced by using the handbook and videos together. Some contributors include psychologist Dr. Diane Langberg; attorney, former prosecutor, victim advocate, and church advisor, Samantha Kilpatric; and survivor, attorney, and advocate, Rachael Denhollander.
Resources from Church Denominations
As new light continues to be shed on the reality of clergy sexual misconduct, some church denominations have now put policies in place to protect congregants and have also begun offering formal trainings for ministry leaders.
It is recommended that church leaders contact their denomination or religious headquarters to access any information or training available. Some trainings are available online, such as the Episcopal and Mennonite’s clergy sexual misconduct trainings. Other denominations may offer a report or best practices guide, such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
If your denomination does not have a training on clergy sexual misconduct/clergy sexual abuse, consider contacting the denomination leadership to inform them of the great need to address this issue from the top down. You can cause a positive change for future generations by influencing your denomination.